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Ernest Hemingway FAQ: Beliefs

Question What were Ernest Hemingway's political views?

Answer Ernest Hemingway was never terribly "active" politically, but he did voice his opinion on things of a political nature (mostly the things he found objectionable).

In Ernest Hemingway on Writing edited by Larry W. Phillips, there is a short chapter titled "Politics," which contains Hemingway's interesting reflections on the political life.

Hemingway's 1937 speech to the American Writers' Congress demonstrates his willingness to speak up against oppressive systems of government. The speech is titled "Fascism is a Lie" and is reprinted in Conversations with Ernest Hemingway edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli, pages 193-195.

Hemingway's 1940 novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls shows his concern with the Spanish Civil War and political overtones are present throughout the narrative and dialogue.

Keneth Kinnamon's essay, "Hemingway and Politics" in The Cambridge Companion to Ernest Hemingway edited by Scott Donaldson may also be of interest.

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Question What were Ernest Hemingway's religious views?

Answer Ernest Hemingway had a very strict religious upbringing, but as he grew older and certainly more rebellious, he seemed to want to disassociate himself with the Christian convictions of his family. His second wife Pauline was a devout Catholic and in order to marry her, Hemingway had to convert to Catholicism. Whether he took this conversion and everything associated with it seriously is suspect.

As a writer, he believed you had to stay away from the subjects of religion and politics. However, references (symbolic & direct) to religion are frequent in his work: Brett Ashley's strange remark to Jake Barnes towards the end of The Sun Also Rises, Catherine Barkley's relinquishing of her Saint Anthony medal to Frederic Henry in A Farewell to Arms, Robert Jordan questioning who has it easier as he lies near death in For Whom the Bell Tolls, Santiago admitting he is not religious, but still saying Our Fathers and Holy Marys in The Old Man and the Sea. It's interesting to note that when Hemingway died, he did not qualify for the traditional "Catholic Church" funeral service due to the fact that he had had three divorces. In retrospect, this is probably the way he would have wanted it.

For more on Ernest Hemingway and religion, see "Hemingway's Religious Odyssey: The Oak Park Years" by Larry Grimes in Ernest Hemingway: The Oak Park Legacy.

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Question Was Ernest Hemingway an intellectual?

Answer Even though Ernest Hemingway carried an anti-intellectual chip on his shoulder for most of his life, he was very much an intellectual, a "closet intellectual" if you will. He was a voracious reader, fluent in Spanish, and had an incredible gift for profound insight. Hemingway, of course, never attended college. This may explain why he received such pleasure in playfully mocking his Ivy League educated friends. He had considerable distaste for the world of academia, particularly for the overzealous critics and scholars, who made a living out of analyzing every comma and period of his work. Hemingway once told his son Jack that if he could secretly attend one of the courses being taught on him, he would likely earn a failing mark.

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